Eagles Look To Have Run, Run, Run

All during the off-season, Andy Reid swore the Eagles would run the ball more. All during the pre-season, the Eagles ran the ball more. Now, with the regular season approaching, Reid reiterates his desire to run the ball more.

Andy Reid is a pass-first coach, but even he has acknowledged on more than one occasion over the last eight months that the Eagles threw the ball far too much last season.

"I don't want it to be like it was last year," said Reid, whose team threw the ball 255 more times than it ran it. "It was too much (passing). We need to get more balanced there."

Reid's idea of balance and, say, Bill Cowher's idea of balance are two different things. When Reid talks about offensive balance, he's still talking about throwing the ball 58-60 percent of the time.

Last year, the Eagles called passing plays an NFL-high 73 percent of the time. That figure was close to 80 percent in the first half of the season before Reid turned over the play-calling to his offensive coordinator, Brad Childress. In one game against the San Diego Chargers, Reid called 21 pass plays in a row. In another against the Denver Broncos, the Eagles didn't run the ball until they were behind 21-0. In a game against the Dallas Cowboys, Eagles running backs got just six carries.

"Last year, we definitely tried to get the ball to T.O. (Terrell Owens), and it's tough for running backs when you don't get into the flow of a game," said running back Brian Westbrook. "It's the second quarter and you haven't touched the ball because you kept going three-and-out, that's tough."

Childress left in the off-season to become the Minnesota Vikings' head coach and has been replaced by Marty Mornhinweg. Westbrook thinks Mornhinweg, who has known Reid for 20 years, will be a good influence on him as far as running the ball.

"Marty brings the attitude that we're going to run the ball," Westbrook said.

So far, Reid has given every indication that he wants to run the ball more. He's put together a huge, road-grader offensive line that averages more than 332 pounds per man. He even kept an extra offensive lineman - 6-0, 350-pound undrafted rookie Nick Cole - that he plans to use on occasion as a blocking and even ball-carrying fullback. In the Eagles' final pre-season game against the New York Jets, Cole opened a hole the size of an interstate highway that Thomas Tapeh used to score an easy one-yard touchdown.

The Eagles' two top running backs - Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter - both have injury issues. Westbrook missed the last four games of '05 with a sprained foot, then stretched ligaments in the other foot on the first series of the Eagles' first pre-season game. He hasn't played since, but resumed practicing last week and will start Sunday against Houston.

Buckhalter has missed three of the last four seasons with knee injuries. He was considered a long shot to make the team, but had a good camp and pre-season and had no problems with the knees.

"It's going to translate into wins," Westbrook said, referring to running the ball. "When coach Reid sees he's having success running the ball, he'll be more in tune to call more running plays.

"We've been practicing it a lot. It's going to be tough going out and passing the ball 40 times a game and winning. You're better off running the ball and keeping the defense off the field so it doesn't get worn down playing 45 minutes a game."

Westbrook thinks the Eagles' offense this season will look a lot like it did in '03 when he and Buckhalter and Duce Staley combined for 2,465 rushing and receiving yards.


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